To consider two reports from the Executive Director for People, Children.
Members considered the Annual reports for the Fostering and Adoption services.
Both reports provided an overview of the areas of strength and areas for development and modernisation within the fostering and adoption services.
The Portfolio Holder for Education Skills and Early Help advised members these were 2 very distinct reports. Fostering within the Dorset Council area and Aspire Adoption offered a service Pan Dorset. He offered a huge thanks to all foster carers and adopters during the pandemic.
Areas of discussion/questions
Reference to enquiries and approvals and an underspend. In respect of the underspend officers would continue to set the budget to the level of need. The attrition rate was no worse than anywhere else. A lot of people applied but were not fully aware of what was involved and the questions that were asked at an early stage. Generally, 1 in 10 people who enquired about foster caring go on to be foster carers.
Highlighted a national article about young people in their 20s applying to be foster carers. Anyone who was an adult could apply to be a foster carer. Most agencies had a policy for over 21 years old only. Average age of Dorset Council foster carers was 57, with a number below the age of 40.
Ongoing struggle of recruiting foster carers.
Capacity in respect of staffing as a result of bring the service ‘in-house’.
Officers advised there was a statutory requirement to review staffing on a yearly basis.
Feedback from foster carers and the Fostering Panel. The Executive Director advised there had not been as much feedback as previously and officers were reviewing the entire Fostering Panel and would be recruiting to the Chair post shortly. Part of the improvement plan was to ensure feedback was strong.
Levels of support to younger carers. There was a peer mentoring system in place and reference made to the fostering training programme.
Was there any particular drive to church communities to recruit foster carers. There was no one particular area of the community that was targeted it was important to get a broad range of foster carers.
Additional support for children during the pandemic.
That a number of people’s spare rooms had now become ‘offices’ as a result of the pandemic which could be a drawback to future recruitment drives.
Improvement in the assessment of foster carers. The average was around 20 weeks for Dorset.
The Chairman noted the huge amount of change that had happened within the service which was still ongoing and felt that a short Working Group would be helpful. The Executive Director whilst content to spend time reviewing processes with members would not like to see any delays. Towards autumn would be appropriate to look at the business case and the changes proposed and how that would work going forward.
Members of the proposed working group: Nick Ireland, Gill Taylor, Molly Rennie, Bill Pipe, Stella Jones, Kate Wheller, Jane Somper and Beryl Ezzard.
The Chairman asked that the Executive Director for People, Children liaise with the Head of the Chief Executive’s Office to consider the scope and proposed timetable for the Group.
Reference to delays in court issues as a result of the pandemic. There were some delays as a result of the first lockdown but as soon as it became clear what could be done things started to move forward and they were now back on track. Capacity within the service which was reviewed last year. Officers highlighted the need to ensure staffing was right to support the relevant functions.